Saturday, December 27, 2008
The main page for the conference is here.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Abstracts are welcome from within any area of philosophy of sport including metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, and from any relevant theoretical approach, including analytic, continental philosophy or critical theory. Submissions in related areas such as philosophy of the body; philosophy of health, philosophy of coaching; philosophy of Physical Education are also welcomed. Newcomers to the association may wish to consult the web site to see full details of previous conferences and books of abstracts: http://philosophyofsport.glos.ac.uk.
Abstracts should be 350-500 words long (including references). The deadline for submission is 12 December 2008. Abstracts must be submitted electronically to BPSA Vice-Chair Dr Andrew Edgar email@example.com. Preferred format is MS Word. Contributors will be notified about the acceptance or rejection of their abstracts no later than 26 January 2009. Abstracts will be published in a booklet distributed at the conference and will appear before then on the BPSA website. Authors whose work is accepted for the conference are invited to submit their papers for review to the Association’s Journal, Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, edited by Dr McNamee firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information about the conference programme, location, travel arrangements, etc. will be posted on the BPSA website as it becomes available. The local organisers will be Professor Steve Olivier and Ms Claire Morton, at email@example.com; telephone 0044 (0)1382 308727.
In their paper “The genetic design of a new Amazon” Claudio Tamburrini and Torbjorn Tannsjo (or perhaps Pan and Loki?) claim that the fact that men and women are prevented from competing against each other means that women are sexually discriminated against in sporting arenas. Ergo, as such discrimination is unacceptable, women should be allowed to undergo genetic modification (when such procedures are safe) to allow them to compete with men, because “In sports it is crucial that the best person wins”. While I am very interested in what the readers of this blog think on the matter, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast right away.
Tamburrini and Tannsjo claim that (A) “If a female athlete can perform better than a male athlete, this female athlete should be allowed to compete with, and beat, the male athlete.” And (B) “If she cannot beat a certain male athlete, so be it. If the competition was fair, she should be able to face the fact that he was more talented. It is really as simple as that.” I agree fully with (A); of course, whether women would want to compete with males, or should be made to, is another question.
(B), though, hints at a problem that Tamburinni and Tannsjo seem to obfuscate. If female athletes are genetically enhanced, any competition against unmodified male athletes simply isn’t fair anymore. In what sense is a victory by an enhanced female athlete over an unmodified male athlete a victory for equality? Presumably, Tamburrini and Tannsjo are either going to allow male athletes to modify themselves in a similar way (so they too can try to be the “best person”), or they are not. If they do, the modifications of the two sexes would seem to “cancel each other out” in a kind of biotechnological arms race (har har), as each athlete attempts to be that best person. And if they don’t, that would seem to be… err… sexual discrimination. (In the background I can hear Derek Zoolander screaming: “Merman pop! I’m a mer-MAN!)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The constitution, members of the executive committee, and associated bodies can all be found on there along with discussion posts and details of forthcoming conferences, etc.
Please take a look and add yourself as a member.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
* teaching HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness to children most at risk
* fostering rehabilitation and teaching life skills to children affected by war
* opening up educational and leadership opportunities to girls
* bringing joy, hope, laughter and so much more to children in need
Right To Play trains community members and individuals within local partner organizations to be coaches and run our programs. This creates the foundation in a community for leadership and helps to rebuild community infrastructure, networks and support systems.
Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play has projects in more than 20 countries in the Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
There is a brief interview with Tyler Hamilton here.
One of the issues that arises near the end of the interview is whether or not cycling needs a union, similar to other professional sports. It seems to me that this would be a good idea, with some qualifications. I think it would be good so that the rights of cyclists are respected, and so power is more evenly distributed in this sport. However, given cycling's high profile links to doping scandals, I would want the union to strongly support strict standards on the model of Team Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle, not just in word, but in practice as well. The advantage of a union being in play is that this sort of thing could be done while trying to balance the rights and interests of individual cyclists as much as possible, and hopefully encouraging a grassroots level response to doping rather than the top-down model of organizations like WADA.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
As if liberally pasting the sponsor’s name all over an athlete wasn’t enough, we now have kits displaying colourful historical images as well. First our athletes were identified by their kit; then by playing in it they were contributing to kit sales (while actively promoting a brand name). Now, one can only assume that Stade Francias have decided to give spectators a history lesson, by playing in a rugby jersey with multicoloured images of Blanche de Castille (wife of Louis VIII and mother to Louis IX) emblazoned on it. I am loath to write this off as a fashion faux pas – French eccentricity notwithstanding. Could someone please tell me what is going on here, and what I should prepare myself for next?
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
This is a ridiculously high score and raises questions surrounding fair play and whether the "mercy rule" should be incorporated in pre Olympic qualifying. As a result of such a high score, the validity and place of women's hockey is questioned and criticized.
History informs us that the Canadian men's team used to dominate early 1900 ice hockey play at the Olympics; however, in 2002, Canada won the gold for the first time in 50 years. Therefore, many argue that it took time but the rest of the world did eventually catch up to the US and CAN in ice hockey and today World and Olympic tournaments are quite competitive.
Regardless of one's sex, should there be a "mercy rule" incorporated in such a sport where many teams do not have the population, nor the economic status to play with the "big boys and girls" ?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
The demand that players speak English is wrong for a variety of reasons, I think, but it also uncovers something interesting for philosophers of sport. How important is it that a sport be entertaining? And why should the external goods of sponsorship and money determine who can participate in elite sport, regardless of their level of talent?
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
“The Americans shattered the world record set by their ''B'' team the previous evening in the preliminaries, touching with a time of 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds - nearly 4 full seconds below the 15-hour-old mark. Bernard was the world record holder in the 100, but he surrendered that mark as well. Australia's Eamon Sullivan broke the individual record by swimming the leadoff leg in 47.24 - ahead of Bernard's mark of 47.50. Lezak swam his 100 in a staggering 46.06, the fastest relay leg in history, though it doesn't count as an official record.”
Jason Lezak’s swim was awesome, regardless of what he was wearing. But why are these records tumbling so easily? If it isn’t drugs, it can really only be technology. I refuse to believe that refinements in training regimes and swimming techniques are responsible for such drastic reductions in record times. How much then do these records really mean? Just where are the IOC/WADA watchdogs, and why aren’t they barking?
Friday, August 8, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
As the figures suggest that testing does not deter athletes from cheating, Andrea Petroczi’s (Kingston University) recommendation is that the way to stop doping is to focus upon the psychological reasons why athletes take illegal supplements. This, she argues, is due to an athlete’s belief that s/he is unable to compete without taking these supplements: it is not the fact that athletes are attracted to such supplements because they are illegal, nor do they generally consider consequences on their health, but rather because of their drive to win and their belief that such supplements will aid them in this quest. Petroczi suggests that coaches should therefore work on psychological techniques to change this attitude from one which promotes winning at any cost, to one that encourages a 'mastery' of their chosen sport.
When the lure of big-time success in sport is driven by a competitive attitude towards others, it isn’t surprising that some athletes will do whatever they believe it takes (from training on Christmas Day to taking the latest flashy-marketed nutritional supplement to illegal methods). Those in favour of this psychological intervention, such as Smoll and Smith, from the University of Washington, maintain that performance would not necessarily be adversely affected with a change in attitude, although they do concede that it is difficult to gather the evidence to support this due to the reluctance of elite level coaches to change their methods. Yet even if were able to justify such psychological intervention from an ethical standpoint, I doubt that it would not have an effect on elite-level sport; arguably sport as we know it today is only that because of the mindset athletes’ have. If we take away that attitude then we may well be changing the nature of sport.
The New Scientist article touches upon many of the perennial questions surrounding the issue of doping in sport (which I haven’t covered in this contribution), but it also raises a new one, in what effect would a change in athletes’ attitude have on the nature of elite sport? I'm not suggesting that even if it were possible to change the attitude of every athlete in the world that it would have an adverse effect on top-level sport, but merely disagreeing with the presumption that performances, and therefore elite sport, wouldn’t be affected.
If Petroczi and others are correct in their view that doping can only be eradicated through a change of attitude, then we might need to accept that elite level sport would no longer be as we currently know it. It is either that, or change our attitude towards doping, which might be easier… but then that’s another debate to be had.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
In The Inward Morning, Henry Bugbee describes an experiential philosophy that is not “set up like the solution of a puzzle, worked out with all the pieces lying there before the eye. It will be more like the clarification of what we know in our bones” (p. 35). In many ways, intercollegiate athletic departments and individual coaches follow this model when developing mission statements, ethical guidelines, and programs on sportsmanship. For these individuals, an athletic department philosophy is not an analytic argument but rather a belief system determined through myriad conversations and decisions over many years.
One aspect of this formation process involves a tension between openness and contraction. On occasion, the process of philosophical thought requires an attention to one’s surroundings – in this case to people, programs, and broader athletic issues. At other times the process necessitates moments of contraction – acknowledging that a given athletic philosophy may not necessarily meet the needs of other institutions or teams.
A second aspect of the development process involves experience. A rich understanding of athletics help individuals shape an institutional athletic department philosophy. Again, Bugbee writes that “Experience is our undergoing, our involvement in the world, our lending or withholding of ourselves, keyed to our responsiveness, our sensibility, our alertness or our deadness” (p. 41).
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
In just a few short weeks, the Beijing Olympics will begin. A fellow contributor to the blog suggested that we all address the following questions, which are intentionally wide in scope to allow for a wide variety of answers, from the personal to the political:
1. What is one good thing that you want to see happen at the Olympics?
2. What is one bad thing that you fear might happen, and what, if anything, can be done about it in advance?
Contributors as well as readers are invited to post their answers in the comments to this post.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Mike McNamee, a contributor to this blog, has a new book out with Routledge entitled "Sports, Virtues and Vices: Morality Plays". It looks to be very interesting. The publisher's website for the book can be found here.
The book contains a wealth of contemporary sporting examples, and explores key ethical issues such as:
-How the pursuit of sporting excellence can lead to harm
-Doping, greed and shame
-Biomedical technology as a challenge to the virtue of elite athletes
-Defining a ‘virtue ethical account’ in sport
-A family of vices and virtues in sport
Congratulations to Mike on the book!
Monday, June 30, 2008
Second, an episode of Philoso?hy Talk dealing with issues in sports ethics with current NCAA president Myles Brand, who also happens to be a philosopher.
(Hat Tip: Dave Webster at http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/).
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Football and Philosophy: Going Deep, has just been published by the University Press of Kentucky and is now available. The book's contents should appeal to those interested in philosophy of sport, and include contributions from contributors to this blog. Here's the table of contents, for those who are interested:
Foreword, Joe Posnanski
First Quarter: Football's Lessons for the Game of Life
1. Vince Lombardi and the Philosophy of Winning, Raymond A. Belliotti
2. On Fumbling the Ball, Jeffrey P. Fry
3. Football and Aristotle's Philosophy of Friendship, Daniel B. Gallagher
4. Inside the Helmet: What Do Football Players Know?, R. Douglas Geivett
Second Quarter: Playing Well Between the Lines
5. The Beauty of Football, Scott F. Parker
6. Virtue and Violence: Can a Good Football Player be a Good Person?, Scott A. Davison
7. What's So Bad about Performance-Enhancing Drugs?, Sharon Ryan
8. The True Nature of Cheating, Marshall Swain and Myles Brand
9. "They Don't Pay Nobody to Be Humble!": Football's Ego Problem, M. Andrew Holowchak
Third Quarter: Philosophical Armchair Quarterbacking
10. Crowning a True Champion: The Case for a College Football Playoff, Michael W. Austin
11. Heroes of the Coliseum, Heather L. Reid
12. A True MVP, Stephen Kershnar
13. Upon Further Review: Instant Replay is an All-or-Nothing Affair, Joshua A. Smith
14. Does the Salary Cap Make the NFL a Fairer League?, Daniel Collins-Cavanaugh
Fourth Quarter: Metaphysical Mojo
15. Is the Gridiron Holy Ground?, Mark Hamilton
16. Touchdowns, Time, and Truth, Joseph Keim Campbell
17. Feel the Big Mo', Ben Letson
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
There are several interesting questions specific to this situation, and to the general relationship between politics, ethics, and the Olympic Games. What sort of philosophical justifications have been or can be given for and against boycotting the Games? Are there principled reasons for boycotting? Must a boycott have a good chance at being effective in producing positive political change to be justified? What about considerations of fairness to the athletes who will miss out on the Games if a boycott precludes their participation?
I would be interested to see what readers of this blog have to say about these issues.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Admittedly, Gillispie is not offering a philosophical defense of the practice. From the perspective of a coach who wants the best players he can get, Gillispie apparently feels that he should go after young players in his recruiting. However, the mere competitive nature of anything is not enough in and of itself to justify some practice. For example, consider the practices that could be "justified" by this same type of argument: doping, cheating, lying about age in the Little League World Series, and so on. Those who accept this trend in recruiting as something needed because of the competitive nature of recruiting and sport in general fail to consider the real threats to the welfare of children posed by this practice. Kids do need to be kids, while they can. Why rush them into the pressures and challenges of adulthood before they are ready, and before it is necessary? The competitive nature of elite sport is not a sufficient justification.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The last set of comments by Jim Parry are particularly interesting for those interested in Olympism and moral philosophy.
Friday, May 2, 2008
While driving home yesterday, I was thrilled to hear the softball news story from Portland Oregon. Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University hit her first ever home run and started to take her "victory lap". However, she collapsed quickly due to a knee injury but managed to make it to first base. The rules of softball indicate that she would be called out if her teammates attempted to help her. Consequently, two players from the opposing team, Central Washington University, decided to help Sarah out and carried her around the bases in true fair play spirit. Tucholsky's team ended up winning the game and advanced in the playoffs knocking off Central Washington.
All in all, it is a great story that should be celebrated. However, I was a bit put off while listening to the news story in that the radio journalist asked the players if they ever could imagine such an occurrence taking place in men's sport... right--fair play is reserved for women only :)
Many ethical issues are raised by this turn of events, but I'd like to focus on one contained in several articles within a recent section of the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport devoted to children and philosophy of sport, namely, the right of children to an open future. Joel Feinberg describes this right as consisting of a child being entitled to having as many options open to her as possible upon becoming an adult, so that she will be able to exercise autonomy maximally as a competent adult. It is not clear to me that Avery's right to an open future is undermined by his commitment to Kentucky, given that he can opt out of the commitment in the future. However, I would argue that it is safe to say that such a development is troubling. Should 8th graders be making such commitments, and moreover should college coaches be seeking them? While this might not, strictly speaking, unduly limit Avery's present and future autonomy, it does seem to tighten the openness of his future in significant ways. The pressure to excel in basketball might cause him to forego other options that should still be live options at his age: other sports, music, art, scholastics, and free time to just be a kid, to name a few. Even if these factors do not obtain in this specific case, they could and likely would in other cases if this practice becomes more widespread. Is this a cause for concern, or am I merely making much ado about nothing?
If anyone has thoughts on this, please post them in the comments link below.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Part II: Ethical, Social, and Political Issues
Not surprisingly, ethical issues have drawn the most scholarly debate within the field. Aside from the general debate about the role of movement, sport, and play in “the good life,” the field provides a variety of issues that can be examined in a variety of ways. For example, the morality of doping may be approached from the perspective of traditional virtue ethics by developing a conception of a good person within sport (sometimes called sportsmanship or sportspersonship), then asking whether this person would use dope. From the perspective of Kantian-style duty ethics, one may point out that doping violates a promise made to a competitor. And from a consequentialist utilitarian perspective, one may argue that doping has negative health consequences. In recent years, Alisdair MacIntyre’s social practice theory (After Virtue, 1981) has been applied frequently to sport. On this view, sports are seen as group activities in which practitioners seek certain internal goods and uphold particular standards of virtue. From this perspective the question about doping is whether it interferes with the pursuit of those internal goods or group-defined virtues.
Of course the most basic ethical question in sport is cheating: is it ever morally permissible to intentionally break a rule? The most controversial example is fouling to stop the clock in basketball. A strict perspective on this practice is Warren Fraleigh’s “logical incompatibility thesis,” which says you can’t break a rule and play the game at the same time. Insofar as games just are sets of rules, violating rules amounts to not playing the game. A softer approach views breaking rules as unethical when it interferes with the game’s purpose of testing a prescribed set of skills. A third perspective views games as cultures rather than rule sets and defines sport ethics in terms of what’s accepted by the community of practitioners. The clock-stopping foul in basketball, on this view, is morally permissible because it’s accepted and even expected within the culture of the game. It’s not clear, however, that acceptance of a practice amounts to moral rectitude. Unwritten rules might also carry moral obligations—as with the soccer custom of kicking the ball out of play when a player is injured. If a player is somehow unaware of this custom, and therefore fails to do it, has she done something immoral?
Morality in sports competition involves more than rule-obedience. The interpersonal nature of competition itself implies certain moral obligations. In Fair Play: Sport, Values, and Society (1991) Robert Simon defines athletic competition as a “mutual quest for excellence” that is ultimately cooperative and therefore carries the obligation to provide a good test for one’s opponent. Violence, defined as the intent to harm or disable one’s opponent, is unethical on this model because it interferes with the cooperative quest for excellence. Aggressive but clean checking in hockey may be part of the game, but preventing a competitor from being able to test his skills is not acceptable. This is a problem for the sport of boxing insofar as its lusory goal—the knock out—just is the violent disabling of ones opponent.
Ethical issues in sport also examine actions in terms of what is good for the sport generally. The use of high-tech equipment, such as hydrodynamic swimsuits, is a good topic for debate. Robert Butcher and Angela Schneider define fair play as “respect for the game,” which they describe in terms of preserving what MacIntyre called the internal goods of a particular sport. Hi-tech equipment may interfere with these goods if, for example, it makes the sport too expensive for many to participate, or if it replaces one of the sport’s important skills with a mechanical advantage. On the other hand, high-tech equipment can be good for the game if it preserves or increases access to internal goods. Many would argue that the advent of the fiberglass vaulting pole made the sport safer and more accessible to athletes of all sizes and genders. Sports ethics does not always cohere with conventional athletic wisdom, but it does apply disciplined ethical thinking to practices which too often view themselves as “beyond” ethical scrutiny.
The Social and Political Functions of Sport
The third big area of philosophical speculation in sport has to do with sport’s social and political functions. Foremost among these is the use of sport in education. Many sport philosophers are also physical educators and the role and purpose of PE is a popular topic. R. Scott Kretchmar’s Practical Philosophy of Sport (1994) promotes a reflective approach to physical education that emphasizes finding meaning in movement. Sport is also discussed as a means of moral education, with special attention paid to its ability to reveal or perhaps cultivate “character.” Heather L. Reid’s The Philosophical Athlete (2002) focuses on what athletes can learn from participating in competitive sport. Finally, sport is discussed as a means of social education—a way of teaching the cooperation and teamwork necessary to succeed in modern society.
Philosophers of sport also debate issues of sport and social access. Sport, like society, has a history of exclusion by class, race, and gender. A hot topic in recent years has been the relationship of women with sport. In the
Sport is often discussed in terms of political concepts such as the social contract. Is accepting the rules of a game akin to entering a social contract? The political ideal of justice can be compared to the sport-specific concept of fair play. Principles such as equal opportunity seem to be reflected in sports by common starting lines and level playing fields, but they are also challenged by inequities of natural ability, coaching resources, equipment, and poverty. Sports sometimes compensate for competitive advantages by providing various “handicaps,” but are these always just? Issues of liberty and authority are frequently discussed in issues revolving around personal risk and safety, as well as social control issues, such as the excessive celebration rule in American Football.
Broader cultural issues are also examined in their relationship to sport. Prominent among these are questions about commercialization and commodification. Big-time college sport in the
Questions for the Future
By any standard, philosophy of sport must be regarded as a nascent academic field with a vast unexplored frontier. Important texts and ideas from the history of philosophy have been profitably applied to sport and there is still much ground to cover. Non-western philosophy offers many opportunities in this area; Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel, is the only major work to date. The analysis of additional ethical and political issues is also ripe for development, particularly as sport plays a larger role in commercial society and international politics. Philosophy, ultimately, is about the desire to know—there is much to know about sport and our journey has just begun.
- To what extent can a meaningful distinction be made between the ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ athlete?
- Does the claim that we have entered a post-human age have any validity and if so, what are the repercussions for elite sport?
- What are the implications for sport (for instance, the conception of (dis)ability sport) with the development of technology that obscures the line between the organic and inorganic?
For more information please contact me and I would be happy to discuss it further.
Faculty of Sport, Health and Social Care
University of Gloucestershire
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I take a really simple line - beneath the arguments about doping are arguments about sportspershonship and (if you will forgive the crudity that follows) that requires some thinking about personhood. I tried this at my first PSSS conference organised by Bill Morgan when he was at Tennessee (1991 I believe). I had the great good fortune to have the paper responded to by Scott Kretchmar who said a lot of nice things but felt essentially the line I had taken (following Charles Taylor) was too cognitively biased. Being the wise-young PhD student I was back then, I promptly ignored the advice. When I came to revising the paper for the book (last year) I was forced to concede that the ever-modest Professor saw it right all along and that I had to soften up the position and concede that, useful an idea as strong evaluation is (the capacity to choose evaluatively among ends), if we make this the benchmark for all persons, then infants, those in Persistent Vegitative States, severely mentally disabled (among others) don't count - and to lump them in a category of non-persons is just unacceptable.
Nevertheless, there is something in the idea that a full blown ideal of a sportsperson is someone who can stand outside of ego and economic incentives to realise that a fair contest is at the heart of sports. This does not mean that all inequalities can or ought to be wiped away. Sigmund Loland gave a great keynote at the last British Philosophy of Sport Association Conference last week in Denmark (a long story and one for anohter blog) where he reminded us that we are all interested in athletic inequalities so long as they are demonstrated by way of fair opportunity (a line reminiscent of Warren Fraleigh before him).
So the fairness will apply to the contest and certain aspects of the pre-contest (no genetic tests just yet though please). It will be conceded by anyone that certain inequalities are present which it is unreasonable to ask sports institutions to eliminate (your country's level of altitude, your parental genetic stock, and so on) but doping is something we can and ought to take a stand on for a variety of harm and sports-integrity reasons as applied sensitively to the heterogeneity of cases that occur.
I offer in the book a virtue theoretical critique (based in the vices of greed (well, pleonexia in the greek catalogue -a sort of unjust greed not mere gluttony) and the loss of shame (aidos) by those who simply "prepare badly" their pharmacological regime. But these virtue based arguments add to but do not clinch the argument necessarily. I offer further more technical ones in the shape of slippery slopes and a refutation of the ambiguity of doping rules based on arguments from the conceptual vaguess literature.
But a more simple and provocative one comes often to mind. We know that people speed when driving their cars. We know we won't stop (all of) them.
Driving too fast will not always harm others or ourselves.
Yet we think that posting a limit is a posture to settle an ideal - if you drive more than (say) 30mph near a built up area you may end up killing careless pedestrians; if you drive more than say 80mph and have a tyre blow out you may very well kill yourself.
People drive faster than this. Sometimes they do it with reckless disregard to their person, sometimes to other persons.
The rules present a rationally defensible ideal, that it is impossible always to enforce, but which is an ethically justified pursuit nonenetheless. And so it is with sport.
See what you think. Sorry about the egregious plug.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
I believe that questioning the use of performance enhancers is valuable, as it leads to discussions concerning the legitimacy of rewarding athletes who are using all types of synthetic aids to be better and, ultimately, to win. There are also important ethical questions which occur on the slippery slope between sport in the traditional, amateur, ‘Greek’, understanding of the term, and sport played by super-enhanced, ‘semi-human’, and extremely well-paid athletes. If technology allowed one to alter one’s genes, or to attach robotic arms, legs, etc to become better at a sport (or for that matter, better human beings), should we allow it?
Technological innovations are present in all sports, and at all levels. Companies like Nike, Adidas, Speedo, New Balance and Reebok are constantly striving to manufacture products which give athletes the edge over their opponents. For example, swimmers are now using full-body suits made out of material that minimizes friction with the water. Yes, would come the reply, but how much difference do these suits really make? Well, since it was introduced in February, 19 long-course world swimming records have been set, all but one of those by a swimmer wearing Speedo’s new LZR suit. Coincidence? I think not (see
Spiked athletic shoes are also standard issue today. These shoes have been proved to reduce times by full seconds by virtue of the better grip, and therefore propulsion, that they afford the athlete. Simply put, if you don’t wear them, you are going to lose.
The examples above of swimmers and track athletes are particularly good ones as they both involve sports that have been the traditional bastions of those blowing the anti-doping trumpet the loudest. But isn’t this remarkable, as it seems athletes can use any technology (clothes, shoes, heart-rate monitors etc) to help them beat their opponent, as long as this technology is put on the outside of the body. Yes, comes the immediate response, but when you take performance enhancers, you are not competing. It is some super-you; you are performing way beyond your natural capacity. People who use this line of argument are simply (and conveniently) omitting the impact of new technology. Don’t swimming suits and running spikes do exactly the same thing? Anyone arguing from an “all athletes need equal footing” perspective is going to have to go the whole way and have us all passing the baton barefoot and naked.
This then is the double standard present today in professional sport: we allow technological improvements in equipment, like the Speedo LZR above, to help our athletes, but declare using (some) technological improvements in synthetic stimulants for the same ends illegal. This is not an argument for all types of steroids to be made available whole-sale to the public; I feel that this could well endanger many lives. I suggest as well that the best argument against drugs of this nature will come from the harm they may do our athletes. Some athletes might also want to argue (quite fairly) that they don’t want to risk their lives to compete and win, and that others willingness to do this puts them at a disadvantage. The fact is that many safe performance enhancers are banned alongside those that are dangerous – why not just ban the dangerous ones? I am not offering a complete policy on performance enhancers; I am merely asking us to rethink our intuitive reactions towards performance enhancers.
Apart from the above, I am also interested in performance enhancement (see my next post) and the effects of technology on sport and sportspeople. I also think that there is a good argument for the re-amateurization of (some) sport lurking around somewhere - when I have time, I would like to investigate it. I was a member of the national championship winning Eastern Province field hockey side in 2003, and have coached professionally in England and South Africa. Philosophically, I lean towards Nietzsche, Thoreau, Emerson and Stephen Vizinczey, among others. Otherwise, I am just grateful to get the opportunity to contribute to this forum - thanks Mike.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
There is an ongoing debate about the use of performance-enhancing substances such as steroids, human growth hormone, and EPO amid scandals and allegations involving elite athletes such as Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis, and Roger Clemens, among others. One argument often given against the use of performance-enhancing drugs is as follows:
(1) The use of certain performance-enhancing substances constitutes a form of cheating.
(2) Therefore, the use of such substances is fundamentally unfair.
(3) Such unfairness should not be allowed in sport.
(C) The use of certain performance-enhancing substances should not be allowed.
There is some initially plausibility to this argument. It does strike one as unfair that a cyclist might win a race because he used EPO, when his opponents did not. However, as W.M. Brown points out in his "As American as Gatorade and Apple Pie: Performance Drugs and Sports," this argument misses the point in an important way. If we are considering whether or not the bans in professional leagues and international competitions like the Olympic Games should be in place, then arguing that they should be forbidden because they are against the rules is not relevant and begs the question. What is required is a justification for the rules themselves.
Moreover, another problem arises when considering issues related to fairness. There are numerous inequalities that might lead one to conclude unfairness is simply a part of sport. For example, financial resources, quality of equipment, availability of well-funded training centers, excellence of coaching, and so on could create inequalities that directly or indirectly impact athletic performance. The upshot is that we need an argument showing why some inequalities are acceptable, whereas others are not. My own view is that introducing at least some performance-enhancing substances is wrong, though I'll save my reasons for that position for a later post.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The International Association for the Philosophy of Sport is holding a session. I attended this session last year, and it was enjoyable and thought-provoking. For those who live nearby or are already planning to attend, please note the following:
Saturday, April 19, 12:15-2:15 p.m.
International Association for the Philosophy of Sport
Topic: Philosophy of Sport
Chair: Jeffrey P. Fry (Ball State University)
Speakers: Michael W. Austin (Eastern Kentucky University)
“Magnanimity, Modafinil, and Moral Theory”
Heather Reid (Morningside College)
“Sport as Philosophy”
Nicholas Dixon (Alma College)
“Trash Talking as Irrelevant to Athletic Excellence: Response to Summers”
Jeffrey P. Fry (Ball State University)
“Underdogs, Upsets, and Overachievers”
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Daly would rather drink to Woods' fitness philosophy
By Phil Casey in Stockholm
Thursday, 16 August 2007
The former Open champion John Daly had a vivid and emphatic response yesterday to Tiger Woods' sermon on the benefits of physical fitness in golf.
"Every time I worked out I threw up and I thought to myself, 'I can get drunk and throw up, I don't need to do this!'" was Daly's view of Woods' comments after he won the 13th major of his career in the USPGA Championship on Sunday.
Woods defied the sweltering conditions at Southern Hills and afterwards extolled the virtues of his fitness programme.
"You should always train hard and bust your butt," Woods said following his two-shot victory achieved in temperatures well over 100 degrees. "That's what a sport is. The thing is that not everyone considers golf a sport and they don't treat it as such."
Woods did not name names, but Daly could be considered a prime example of the kind of player he was referring to, a 41-year-old smoker who has battled weight, drink and gambling problems – and gone through three divorces – which have undoubtedly dimmed his huge natural talent. But Daly insists that working out in the gym does not agree with him and has no intention of changing his ways to try to add a third major title to his 1991 USPGA and 1995 Open victories. "I think I did better than most players last week who do work out," he said, third after the opening round at Southern Hills before fading to a share of 32nd. "I saw Vijay [Singh] finding the shade of a tree whenever he could and he looked worn out. I don't think it matters if you work out or if you don't work out, I am used to the heat like that so it doesn't bother me as much as some of the other guys.
"I don't think training or conditioning has anything to do with it. Heat is heat but the fat boys like me, we can get through the heat.
"I tried (working out) when I was at Reebok in the early 1990s but I got tired of it, every time I worked out I threw up and I thought to mysel, "I can get drunk and throw up, I don't need to do this'!
"You throw up after an hour's work out, but you can drink for 20 hours before throwing up, so it is just not for me, I don't like it.
"I am flexible enough, but there are probably some things I could do to keep my flexibility up, but I just don't want to do it.
"I'd rather smoke, drink diet Cokes and eat! It just doesn't mean that much to me to work out, lift weights and run. I get enough exercise walking five or six miles a day."
I am particularly interested in connections between theology and play--the Catholic liturgy, for example, has been called "wasting time for God's sake." Also connections between scholarship and leisure, as these relate to play/game/sport; and leisure and play as objective goods necessary in ethics for human flourishing.
Most specifically I remain fascinated by the question I entertained some years ago in my dissertation on the philosophy and ethics of hunting: is hunting a sport? and if so why? So I guess I'm also interested in the semantics of the term, sport, because many critics of the term believe "sport" is a trivial or unimportant matter, whereas theologians/ethicists might argue that play/sport is what is most important for the good life.
"Anyway," I added, "The main reason [for joining the blog] is I think it would be fun. [Here I stuck a smiley face in my email.] That's my real justification and I'm sticking to it."
I'm very glad to be participating in this blog and am looking forward to some terrific discussions.
I've been involveded in sport philosophy since the beginning of time. I'm excited that a number of younger individuals have come aboard. There is still so much still to be analyzed and discovered.
Professor, Penn State
Monday, April 14, 2008
Some time during the 5th Century BCE, just outside of the
Socrates liked to begin his philosophical investigations with a “what is” question. To explore the question “What is sport?” however, many philosophers looked back to Johan Huizinga’s 1950 Homo Ludens, an analysis of the nature of play. Huizinga claimed that play is not just prior to sport, but also to culture and civilization. He further characterized play as not serious, not necessary (i.e. for survival), and separate from ordinary life. In 1978,
It was Bernard Suits’ playful dialogue The Grasshopper, however, that laid a serious foundation for sport metaphysics. Suits defined a game as the “voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles,” and noted as its necessary components (1) a “prelusory goal” also known as the “object of the game”; (2) constitutive rules which forbid the most efficient means toward the goal; and (3) a “lusory attitude,” that is the players’ conscious acceptance of rules which makes the game possible. In the game of basketball, then, the prelusory goal is to score points by putting the ball into the basket, the constitutive rules prohibit such useful means as ladders and running without bouncing the ball, and the lusory attitude is what makes the players see this activity as a game. Over the years, Suits’ definitions have been explored, refined, and applied directly to sport. In 2005 The Grasshopper was reissued as a sport philosophy classic.
Of course, sport is more than the games themselves, it also involves athletes, and traditional philosophical arguments about mind and body have been deftly applied to sport. In his 1990 book Philosophy of Sport, Drew Hyland considered the three positions of dualism, physicalism, and phenomenology. Although dualism has been the dominant view in Western philosophy, sports enthusiasts resisted its tendency to privilege mind over body and thereby to denigrate sport. Physicalism had more surface appeal, but tended to view the human being as a machine. Phenomenology, which focuses on the experience of the lived body, was Hyland’s preferred approach to the question for athletes. Now the view of a person as both mind and body, dubbed “holism” is the most popular metaphysical theory in the philosophy of sport.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
My current research is primarily focused upon the effect that technology will have on the concept of the human athlete and its implications for sport (we have a funded PhD coming up on this which will be advertised shortly), although I tend to dabble in lots of different areas.
The rest of my life still revolves around playing sport and keeping as active as possible (I recently took up skateboarding and gymnastics!) and I hope to continue for as long as my body allows.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
I'm looking forward to being a part of an international dialogue that includes scholars from a variety of disciplines, students, athletes, and anyone else who happens across this blog.
This multi-authored blog is intended to be an international forum for the discussion of issues related to the philosophical dimensions of sport, as well as a place to disseminate calls for papers, publication and conference announcements, and issues related to teaching in this area of philosophy.
There are many reasons to think that sport is a fitting and important topic for philosophic inquiry which will surface on this blog as the discussion progresses. For now, consider what William Morgan points out in his book Why Sports Morally Matter. Morgan argues that sports deserve to be taken seriously, in part because it is through arguing about sports that many people first learn to generalize, form arguments, and respond to counterarguments. Moreover, debates about economics, gender, race, patriotism, justice, and drugs arise in the context of philosophical discussions of sport, and we can often glean new insights into these issues as they are discussed within this particular context.
I would add that as we think seriously about the philosophy of sport, we end up having to think seriously about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. To my knowledge, no blog exists for the purpose of discussing philosophy of sport, and my hope is that this blog will be a forum for such discussion among philosophers, students, athletes, and anyone else who is simply interested in these issues.